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Thread: Manager is trying to file me for insubordination

  1. #1
    ana5587 is offline Junior Member
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    Manager is trying to file me for insubordination

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? California

    I work in a retail store and my manager is trying to fire me for insubordination for a simple paperwork mishap. My store manager has not been on speaking terms with me for the past two months and she has enacted all of these new policies but has not verbally spoken to me about them. I am being told by other employees and there was one time she told me to read a bulletin board memo and sign it. I read it and signed it thinking I had understood what it had said but the next day I did it wrong. Three days later my manager wrote me up for it. I told her that I thought I had understood the memo but since she did not verbally talk to me like other associates I did it wrong. It was a one time mistake and now I know not to do it again. But she already had the write up ready without even speaking to me and asking for my side of the story. She also wrote other irrelevant things in the write up that had nothing to with what she was writing me up for. She told me that since it was my second written warning the next written warning she will terminate me. I looked in the company employee handbook and it does not state anything about written warnings or a time frame on them. The one that she is holding against me it from almost two years ago. I've spoken to HR and they have not done anything and are not going to do anything. When my manager gave me the written warnings I did not sign them and she did not state on them that I did not sign and she also did not get a witness signature.

    My questions are:

    1) If it does not state in the employee handbook when a written warning expires so will it always be valid?
    2) Without my signature and without a witness signature can a written warning be valid?
    3) What should my next step be if HR is not going to do anything?

    TIA for the feedback!
  2. #2
    Proserpina is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by ana5587 View Post
    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? California

    I work in a retail store and my manager is trying to fire me for insubordination for a simple paperwork mishap. My store manager has not been on speaking terms with me for the past two months and she has enacted all of these new policies but has not verbally spoken to me about them. I am being told by other employees and there was one time she told me to read a bulletin board memo and sign it. I read it and signed it thinking I had understood what it had said but the next day I did it wrong. Three days later my manager wrote me up for it. I told her that I thought I had understood the memo but since she did not verbally talk to me like other associates I did it wrong. It was a one time mistake and now I know not to do it again. But she already had the write up ready without even speaking to me and asking for my side of the story. She also wrote other irrelevant things in the write up that had nothing to with what she was writing me up for. She told me that since it was my second written warning the next written warning she will terminate me. I looked in the company employee handbook and it does not state anything about written warnings or a time frame on them. The one that she is holding against me it from almost two years ago. I've spoken to HR and they have not done anything and are not going to do anything. When my manager gave me the written warnings I did not sign them and she did not state on them that I did not sign and she also did not get a witness signature.

    My questions are:

    1) If it does not state in the employee handbook when a written warning expires so will it always be valid?
    2) Without my signature and without a witness signature can a written warning be valid?
    3) What should my next step be if HR is not going to do anything?

    TIA for the feedback!


    The bottom line is that they can fire you for having blue socks, being a Steeler's fan, got on the wrong end of a cranky boss - you get the picture.

    You need to decide whether this is worth pursuing.

    I'd go with "no"
  3. #3
    swalsh411 is offline Senior Member
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    It sounds like your manager doesn't like you.
  4. #4
    commentator is offline Senior Member
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    You need to understand that yes, they can do whatever they are doing. They do not even "have" to follow their own policy even if it is written out in the handbook.

    If you are, in fact, actually terminated after one more write up, your only recourse would be to sign up for unemployment benefits immediately while looking for another job.

    In regard to whether you were able to be approved for unemployment benefits, there would have to be a decision made as to whether the company had a valid "misconduct" reason to terminate you. If you were terminated for job performance issues, the criteria they would use is, "Did this person have the ability to perform the duties as directed? Had the person performed these duties correctly before? Did this person voluntarily choose to do this wrong, knowing that this action might reasonably result in his/her termination?"

    If they fire you for "insubordination" the question will be, "What was the insubordinate act that you actually did?" As you can see just by thinking about it, unless you said something, or did something (giving someone the finger could be considered insubordinate, refusing a direct command from your supervisor to do something could be) that was insubordinate, deliberate and intended to be, with your full understanding that you might possibly be terminated for it, it would be hard for them to prove insubordination. That your manager is saying she is going to fire you for insubordination shows she's trying to get you, but is not really sure how to go about it.

    If you did something incorrectly because you did not understand what you were being told to do, that is probably not going to be judged insubordinate. And you have an excellent excuse to justify why you did not understand the process, because she treated you differently than the other people she supervises, by refusing to speak to you. But if you deliberately screwed it up for spite, it would be insubordinate. If, when your employer was writing you up, you told her to perform impossible anatomical acts and told her you were NOT going to do the process as she directed, that would be insubordinate.

    One issue I'd hop right on is why your manager refuses to speak to you directly. Is it possible that you've been hateful or disrespectful to her, told her off, created some kind of conflict when she did speak directly to you? If so, you're gone, she is within her rights to fire you, and no unemployment insurance is likely to happen either. As we've said, they can terminate you at will, even if you haven't done this.

    Obviously, you think you have more rights on the job than you do. HR is not your friend, they are not in business to negotiate problems between yourself and a manager. That is the job of a union official, IF you were in a unionized business, which I would strongly suspect this is not. But if I were you, first of all, I'd be looking diligently for another job right now, while I still had this one.

    Secondly, I'd tell HR and this manager that you want to do everything in your power to make this a successful job, to get past this, and to do a good job. Instead of arguing with them about whether you followed the rules, or they followed the rules, or you signed the write up or didn't sign it, or they wrote you up correctly according to their policies, or whether they treat everybody fair on this job, stop talking about it. It has already happened and cannot be taken back. Yes, they can do this to you. Yes, they have. Yes, they can fire you the next time. You have nobody you will find who is interested in fighting about this with you. Stop talking about it to your co-workers. Try to do your work quietly and efficiently. Try to do what your supervisor asks you to. DO NOT smart mouth, talk back, tell her off, or roll your eyes.

    From the sound of this, you may just be buying time to find another job and move on. It is unlikely that you'll be able to salvage this job and this relationship with your manager.
    Last edited by commentator; 12-16-2013 at 08:50 AM.
    Eekamouse likes this.
  5. #5
    cbg
    cbg is offline Senior Member
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    1.) Yes
    2.) Yes
    3.) Keep your head down and your nose clean
    Eekamouse likes this.
    Two things I am tired of typing: 1.) A wrongful termination does not mean that you were fired for something you didn't do; it means that you were fired for a reason prohibited by law. 2.) The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding contract or CBA expressly says otherwise. If it does, the terms of the contract apply.
  6. #6
    ana5587 is offline Junior Member
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    Thank you so much for your detailed response. I really appreciate you taking the time to write a lengthy response. My manager and I have were working fine and getting along perfectly well and she would even tell me she was my "store mom" because she only wants the best for me. All of a sudden about a month ago that shifted and she has become this person that I don't even know. She came onboard with the company three years ago, I have been with the company for seven, and ever since she arrived we worked fine together and I have been her right hand, so she says, since she has been there. I obey all of her directions and for her to think that a simple paperwork mishap is insubordination is ridiculous to me. If she had spoken to me verbally before the write up I would have understood 100% and would not have made that mistake.
    My only concern is if she does fire me for insubordination am I able to get unemployment? Like you said, is insubordination hard to prove? All I did was a simple paperwork mistake and, again, it would not have happened had she spoken to me about the new policy. It was like she set me up to fail.

    Quote Originally Posted by commentator View Post
    You need to understand that yes, they can do whatever they are doing. They do not even "have" to follow their own policy even if it is written out in the handbook.

    If you are, in fact, actually terminated after one more write up, your only recourse would be to sign up for unemployment benefits immediately while looking for another job.

    In regard to whether you were able to be approved for unemployment benefits, there would have to be a decision made as to whether the company had a valid "misconduct" reason to terminate you. If you were terminated for job performance issues, the criteria they would use is, "Did this person have the ability to perform the duties as directed? Had the person performed these duties correctly before? Did this person voluntarily choose to do this wrong, knowing that this action might reasonably result in his/her termination?"

    If they fire you for "insubordination" the question will be, "What was the insubordinate act that you actually did?" As you can see just by thinking about it, unless you said something, or did something (giving someone the finger could be considered insubordinate, refusing a direct command from your supervisor to do something could be) that was insubordinate, deliberate and intended to be, with your full understanding that you might possibly be terminated for it, it would be hard for them to prove insubordination. That your manager is saying she is going to fire you for insubordination shows she's trying to get you, but is not really sure how to go about it.

    If you did something incorrectly because you did not understand what you were being told to do, that is probably not going to be judged insubordinate. And you have an excellent excuse to justify why you did not understand the process, because she treated you differently than the other people she supervises, by refusing to speak to you. But if you deliberately screwed it up for spite, it would be insubordinate. If, when your employer was writing you up, you told her to perform impossible anatomical acts and told her you were NOT going to do the process as she directed, that would be insubordinate.

    One issue I'd hop right on is why your manager refuses to speak to you directly. Is it possible that you've been hateful or disrespectful to her, told her off, created some kind of conflict when she did speak directly to you? If so, you're gone, she is within her rights to fire you, and no unemployment insurance is likely to happen either. As we've said, they can terminate you at will, even if you haven't done this.

    Obviously, you think you have more rights on the job than you do. HR is not your friend, they are not in business to negotiate problems between yourself and a manager. That is the job of a union official, IF you were in a unionized business, which I would strongly suspect this is not. But if I were you, first of all, I'd be looking diligently for another job right now, while I still had this one.

    Secondly, I'd tell HR and this manager that you want to do everything in your power to make this a successful job, to get past this, and to do a good job. Instead of arguing with them about whether you followed the rules, or they followed the rules, or you signed the write up or didn't sign it, or they wrote you up correctly according to their policies, or whether they treat everybody fair on this job, stop talking about it. It has already happened and cannot be taken back. Yes, they can do this to you. Yes, they have. Yes, they can fire you the next time. You have nobody you will find who is interested in fighting about this with you. Stop talking about it to your co-workers. Try to do your work quietly and efficiently. Try to do what your supervisor asks you to. DO NOT smart mouth, talk back, tell her off, or roll your eyes.

    From the sound of this, you may just be buying time to find another job and move on. It is unlikely that you'll be able to salvage this job and this relationship with your manager.
  7. #7
    swalsh411 is offline Senior Member
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    The burden of proof rests with the employer to prove misconduct. A single mistake does not meet that standard.
  8. #8
    commentator is offline Senior Member
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    Whatever you do, if given the option to quit or be fired, do not take the option to quit. Make them be the firing party. If you quit, there's MUCH less chance of your getting unemployment benefits. And employers will lie to you. They'll tell you it would "look better" or help you in references if you elect to quit instead of being fired for cause. And they'll tell you they'll "not allow" you to draw unemployment benefits. Which really, they do not get to make that determination. But if you are approved for benefits, it will cost them money. So don't listen to any advice or do what they say, after all they're the ones who want you gone, and that means let them fire you.

    Second, be very very sure you do NOT do anything insubordinate. Do your job to the best of your abilities. Be polite, pleasant and cooperative with your manager. Move on from this one occasion. If they come back and fire you weeks later after writing you up for this one thing, you would certainly not have much problem getting approved for benefits. So don't keep worrying about this particular issue. It happened, you were written up, do it right next time, and keep moving forward. Meantime, I do suggest you begin, on your own, without broadcasting it, to look for other employment. You obviously are not wanted here, they are looking for excuses to catch you doing something wrong, and your days here are probably numbered. It would be better for you financially to move quickly into another job instead of having to draw benefits for a while as you look for one. They are not much money, and they do end quickly.

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